The future of tech tradeshows is suddenly in the spotlight. Apple announced it was pulling out of Macworld after January’s event, but Apple wasn’t the only one to pull the plug on plans to exhibit: Adobe, Google and Belkin also followed suit. CES, one of the industry’s largest, is experiencing a dip in registered exhibitors as well. The reality is that tech conventions and tradeshows are costly Marketing endeavors. While established companies have more financial resources to afford tech events, tech startups need to be much more judicious with their spending and marketing dollars—particularly during the ongoing economic recession. To weather the economic storm, new Web 2.0 tools and services are serving as an affordable option for tech startups and larger companies; (online video, podcasts, screencasts, blogging, micro-blogging, social networks, etc.) to use for launching new companies and their product/services. One of our clients, for instance, has chosen to cut back on tradeshows and sponsorships, preferring to apply a branded webinar as one ongoing tool to get in front of a more targeted audience. This example lends weight to Robert Scoble’s argument that social media tools are impacting tradeshows.
However, while not an absolute requirement, tech conventions and events can help maximize the marketing and PR efforts behind the launch of a company, new product, service, or a big announcement, because it provides a venue for the company’s spokespeople to meet face-to-face with select reporters, bloggers, and analysts to articulate their story, show off their product or service, and begin building relationships with select opinion leaders. Additionally, tech events provide an opportunity for company executives to meet in-person with prospective customers and investors as well as network with potential partners. For the companies that do decide to invest in exhibiting at one of the bigger shows (i.e.: CES, GSMA, CTIA Wireless, etc.), they also need to plan months in advance and execute flawlessly in order to maximize their ability to rise above the noise. So how should you assess the value in tradeshows? Many of our clients are re-examining the audience fit, attendee interest and ROI. Is the audience qualified and interested in the technologies and solutions being offered?
Tech tradeshows are not dying and should remain on the table for companies to consider as part of their overall Marketing plan. However, just like anything these days, companies have to be highly selective in how they are investing their marketing dollars for every tech tradeshow they are considering exhibiting at or sponsoring. Tradeshow organizers would be wise to consider narrowing the scope of their event in order to attract a more highly targeted audience and appeal to tech companies that must pick and choose carefully for the foreseeable future.